Bring Mommy A Martini is a funny blog about family, travel, home, and DIY's for people OK with loose instructions and a few well-placed F bombs. With a keepin-it-real tone best shared between friends, you'll feel like you're reading notes from your funny, hot-mess bestie who's going through all the same stuff as you.
Both my boys have all different types of friends - they don’t tend to run in just one circle. They both make friends very easily, and get along with pretty much anybody. Which is a great quality, I realize.
But the truth is, sometimes I just don’t like the kids they’re hanging out with.
Whether it’s because I think that one boy is a smartass or I don’t like hearing that filthy language coming out of his 11-year-old mouth when he’s on the phone with my sweet baby angel, who would never utter such venom, I am just not always a fan of the people my boys choose to surround themselves with.
But - unless my kid is putting himself in danger by hanging out with certain friends (and in that case, you better believe I’m stepping in immediately) - I don’t forbid them from doing so.
And you don’t want to forbid your kids from hanging out with kids you don’t like, either.
Well, you might want to.
But it isn’t a good idea.
Don’t Forbid The Friendship
A friend of mine recently said, “As long as my kids live in my house, I choose their friends.”
And I don’t disagree.
What I’m saying is this: don’t verbally, with your out-loud-voice, forbid them from hanging out with those friends.
Because - just like when you decide to cut out all sugar, and then someone places a day-old donut in front of you. You can see how unappealing it looks, with its dried out sugar, all chalky and craggly, but you still want it.
You want it because you can’t have it.
The same thing happens when you tell your kid he can’t hang out with that crusty, day-old friend. He wants to because you said not to.
No, it can’t be you who says it.
You want your child to see his friend’s faults for himself. To make up his own mind, which of course you’re going to be helping him make up, unbeknownst to him.
You’re basically going to be a master manipulator.
Listen. Don’t get all self-righteous on me. If you’re a mom, then don’t you dare act like you aren’t a master manipulator al-freakin-ready. This is for the good of your children. Now buck up and get down to business.
You’re going to be sending a combination of subtle and not-so-subtle messages to your child that will lead him to deciding that he doesn’t approve of that friend of his.
Your goal is to get into your kid’s head. To make them see the ugly side of that friend without having to come right out and say it.
And by “ugly side,” I’m talking about the kids who are a bad influence. The ones who don’t just make bad decisions, but push their friends to do the same.
And I’m talking about the kids who are attention-seeking in all the obnoxious ways that I don’t want my kid picking up.
And I’m also talking about the kids whose home situations are just not good, and it’s not their fault that they haven’t been taught how to behave, but that doesn’t make me want my kid hanging out with them.
I want my kids to be kind to everyone.
But I also want don’t want them to be besties with kids who act like maniacs. You’ve heard the saying that you are the average of your five closest friends? I don’t want the maniac one to factor into my son’s equation.
Do Not Bad-Mouth Your Child’s Friend
It’s important to note that I am not suggesting - nor do I condone - bad-mouthing your child’s friend (to your child. Bad-mouth them to your girlfriends till the cows come home). That’s the same as saying, “you are not to be friends with him any longer,” and it’s a dangerous move for your line of communication as your child grows older.
Besides, it’s what gossipy 15-year-olds do. That’s not appropriate behavior of a parent, so if you find yourself doing this, pull yourself together and cut it out.
There’s a far more passive-aggressive way to handle it.
Ask about the friend sometimes, to show your child you don’t necessarily hate the kid.
Meanwhile, try to get a read on how your kid is feeling about them. See if they’re still enamored by them.
Instead of talking about what a flake that one kid is, or how disrespectful the other one is, try the next technique instead. (Again, if the friend’s behavior is blatantly unacceptable, certainly deal with that head-on. These are suggestions for friends who you just know your kid is settling for, but that you know he could surround himself with so much better-suited friends).
I’ve found that laying compliments on thick for my son’s friends who are well-mannered, responsible, and kind, tends to be a successful tactic. This is part of those subliminal messages you’re sending to your kid’s brain, so he’ll start to feel that emotional reward deep inside his brain when he’s hanging around the “good” kids (the ones you like), and will eventually - God-willing - start to be turned off by the other kids.
Instead of discouraging play dates with the kid you don’t like, go out of your way to set up playdates with his friends that you do like.
The goal here is for you to help your child nourish those positive friendships, and - just like good, healthy grass squeezes out the weeds - your kid’s healthy relationships will leave no room for the unhealthy ones.
Have An Open Mind
My friend Jane, who is one of the smartest people I know, says that having “bad friends” and dealing with “those kids” is an important part of growing up and we don’t always need to swoop in and put a stop to them, as much as it kills us not to.
She says that these are learning experiences that teach our kids to form their own opinions about what they find acceptable and unacceptable, and it helps them learn to set boundaries for themselves.
The caveat, of course, as mentioned above, is when your child is in a dangerous relationship.
Listen to your gut on this. Ask questions about your kid’s friends. Moms can pick up on the very slightest detail being off, if we’ll just listen.
Listen to our kids and listen to our gut.
If you sense danger, step in. Set your own boundaries for your home. Set boundaries for your child to keep him safe, until he’s mature enough for you to loosen the reigns a bit.
Lastly - as long as there isn’t a safety concern - consider that your kid is showing tolerance of others.
That he’s showing kindness.
And that he is smart enough to know that this friend has good qualities and bad qualities, and likely knows better than to let those bad qualities rub off on him.
If only I knew 14 or 15 years ago what I know now about raising a child with anxieties.
Our first-born, now 20, had bouts of anxiety from as early as I can remember - infancy, really - and they grew more and more paralyzing as he grew into elementary-school age.
When he was in kindergarten, there was a light bulb flickering in the school gym during PE for over a month, and he would freak the freak out so hard they’d have to send him to the counselor’s office during PE time until they could get maintenance down there to change that damn bulb.
My son was so petrified of vomiting, he’d shake me awake in the middle of the night almost every night to ask me if I thought he might have a stomach virus, and he wouldn’t eat meat for years because he was terrified it would be undercooked.
He didn’t go upstairs by himself from second through fifth grade.
As someone who’s had my own share of anxieties throughout my life, you’d think I’d have been better equipped at parenting an anxious child, but no.
I didn’t have the same “nervy” or “neurotic” behaviors as my son had as a child, so I didn’t have the “how did MY mom and dad handle this?” to use as a reference.
We tried. We really did.
We’d run through the whole gamut of emotions and reactions to his fears.
At first, we showed understanding and empathy. We would coax him gently to face the discomfort of those fears.
Then, as he’d push back against our encouragement, and tensions would rise, we’d grit our teeth a little and use slightly more firm verbiage.
Then we’d grow frustrated and tired and we would just want him to go up-the-effing-stairs, or eat the effing meat, or sit in the effing gym for effing PE for eff’s sake.
For example, it’s one thing to RSVP “no” to a birthday party so your kid doesn’t have deal with the crowd and noise of a party.
But you aren’t protecting her by allowing her this avoidance all the time.
There are going to be plenty of occasions throughout her life where she’ll have to deal with being in an uncomfortable situation, and where you won’t be there to buffer her from it.
Furthermore, by allowing your child to continually missing out on get-togethers with friends, a wedge of distance starts to grow between your child and her peers, and - over time - she’ll start to feel as out of place as a dog biscuit on an hors d’oeuvres platter.
She can’t foster connections if she’s not physically present to make those connections.
I’m not suggesting you always RSVP “yes,” willy-nilly. That would be cruel.
I’m recommending that you say yes on behalf of your child to the smaller, less chaotic parties.
Protecting him from natural consequences
Letting your child off the hook “because he’s different,” or “because he has a hard time,” or - worse yet - taking the blame yourself, does nothing for your child, except make everyone’s life a little easier right that moment.
And much harder down the line.
You aren’t helping him by not letting him experience the discomfort of making mistakes and bad decisions.
Here’s that fine line again: I find myself asking sometimes, “Is he doing this because of his anxieties, or because he’s an irresponsible asshole?”
And the truth is, it doesn’t even matter what the reason is.
You hate that he’s struggling. It’s painful to see him working hard, and getting more and more agitated, and then sinking back into the chair, defeated.
It’s murder having to stop yourself from shoving him aside, yanking the pencil away, and muttering, “FFS, I’ll do it.”
Tie your arms behind your back.
Do something to force yourself to do nothing.
Acknowledge him, acknowledge his fear and his frustrations.
Encourage him to push through, telling him you have faith in him.
He has to work through the hard stuff himself.
Sometimes even suggesting he take a break, so he can come back to it fresh a little later, will help.
Remember that your goal as his mom is not to make things easier on him. It’s to give him the tools to handle things on his own when he’s an adult, out in the world on his own, when you aren’t around, anymore.
The best response you can give to his cries of, “I can’t do it!” is, “Yes you can! Of course you can.”
We’re lucky to have visited Orlando - Disney World, in particular - a few different times as our boys have grown up, and I know I don’t need to tell you this: everything Disney is magical and amazing.
But the parks themselves is not all there is to do in Orlando, Florida.
This city has so much to offer for travelers of all types: friend trips, couples, families with little kids, and families with older kids. And families with kids of widely different ages, like mine.
This post has affiliate links, which means that I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase using my links. I only recommend brands that I’ve personally used and loved!
When To Go
First, I need to tell you the best time to visit the area is between March and May, because the temperatures haven’t gotten too high, yet, and it’s before the rainy season, which starts in June. Remember, though, that the further you get into May, the more the afternoon rains will pick up.
Summertime in Florida is brutal: if it’s not raining, you better believe the whole state is a blob of thick, sticky air that’ll curl even the smoothest hairs, and will have your makeup sliding right off your face.
Where To Stay
You’ll definitely want to book a hotel in the International Drive area.
It’s only about 20 minutes from the Orlando International Airport (MCO), and once you’re parked at your hotel, you most likely won’t need to access your car again until it’s time to check out because everything is within walking distance.
For our latest visit, we stayed at one of my most favorite hotels I’ve ever visited in Orlando: The Castle Hotel - Autograph Collection, by Marriott. You can find it here on Expedia.
The Castle Hotel’s got gorgeous common areas, with upscale furnishings and lots of attention to detail, and quaint garden areas tucked in all around its outsides.
The rooms could use a bit of an update, but they were very, very clean and comfortable.
What To Do
Everything listed below is within comfortable walking distance of the Castle Hotel, although we did take an Uber to dinner one night so we wouldn’t have to walk in our heels.
They call this an “entertainment park” because it’s got a little of everything: dining, night life, and some amusement park-ish things. Here’s what you’ll find at ICON Park:
Giant Ferris Wheel- Built by the same company that built London’s famous “Eye,” the ICON of Orlando is a slow-moving mammoth of a ferris wheel that soars 400 feet high. There’s a little bar after you enter, so you can take a glass of wine or a beer up with you and toast above the beautiful sights beneath you.
This has nothing to do with Orlando, but if you’re into history at all, this is one that will fascinate you. There are several Titanic museums around the country - the world, really - and they all have different artifacts from the tragedy.
This museum is interesting for all ages because, in addition to all the displays, including a giant, bent chunk of the Titanic’s steel frame, which stands more than two stories high, the employees are in period costume and start you off with a short presentation.
Before you enter, you’re issued a boarding pass with the name and vital statistics of a real Titanic passenger back in 1912, and then you find out at the very end whether you lived or died during that fated journey.
They wouldn’t allow photos, so I don’t have any to share with you, unfortunately.
Then walk around and pop into different shops - some big names like Ulta, Under Armour, American Threads, and some adorable boutiques, like SugarBoo, which I fell in love with, because they have cute farmhousy-style goods and dreamy paper goods.
For The Adults
If you’re able to go without kids, or if you’re traveling with kids who are old enough to get in, I highly recommend a night at Howl At The Moon. A high-energy bar with dueling pianos, this place is super fun for people watching while you sing along to all the popular favorites.
What about you? Have you visited Orlando before? What’s your favorite thing to do there, besides Disney?
Before you run out and buy Teacher Appreciation gifts for your kid’s teachers, you need to know that their cup runneth over in candles and candy bars.
Their cup also runneth over in cups.
After surveying a group of teacher friends, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been known to give my son’s teachers a mug or coffee cup, and I’ve also thrown a handful of giant candy bars in my Target shopping cart when I remembered at the last minute to grab a little treat for them.
Not that those candy bars went unappreciated, because - according to the survey - every gift, no matter how small, is appreciated.
But when I consider that I go into a glassy-eyed coma after just a few hours of having to “watch this,” with one child, and these people spend their entire day, five days a week with a room full of kids doing the same, PLUS trying to teach them real book knowledge and how to behave in a social setting, the least I can offer is a token of thanks that’s slightly more meaningful than an oversized Nestle’s Crunch bar.
A few years ago, I took great pride in the fact that I’d gotten my sh*t together early enough to order a customized gift for Cody’s teacher.
I did my very best research: stalking her Facebook page, of course, like any researcher worth her salt would do, to find out what year she was married.
I presented her with the cutest, vintage-y chalkboard plaque with her fairly-new married last name and the wrong effing “established” date, because her wedding was at the end of one year and she posted the pictures at the beginning of the next year, and I swear on an order of chips and queso that I am trying my effing best over here, and is it my fault that she wasn’t more prompt in posting her wedding photos on social media?
I’m not the only one, though, apparently.
According to one teacher friend, she once received a half-empty bottle of Sunny D with a sticky note saying, “Happy Teacher Apriciation Day” attached. I’m pinning that fail on the kid, not the mom, who I’m sure would be mortified to know that’s what her kid gave the teacher.
Another teacher said she got a barely-living plant in an old pot, as if it had been swiped off her student’s front porch that very morning, and yet another teacher said she got leftover Halloween candy and a bra.
Here are a few other answers that were submitted that made me laugh-cry, they’re so funny:
“A student brought me his mom’s diamond necklace, and the mom called me the next day looking for it!”
“A very large gift bag from a student whose mother was a teacher at another school that got out the day before we did for Christmas, containing all the random, unwanted gifts she’d received, including a card addressed to her. Also expired jelly.”
Here we are again, coming up on the end of another school year, and I went straight to the source to find out exactly what gifts teachers feel extra appreciated when they receive them, and also to give myself gift ideas other than old candy and a used bra, which I’ve learned are not appreciated.
Apparently neither are jars of baking mixes.
According to the lady who worked at the Dollar Tree, where my sister-in-law was buying a bunch of jars and baking mix last year to make cute brownie-mix-decorative jars for teacher gifts, and the lady - whose daughter is a teacher - blathered on and on, telling my sis-in-law how her daughter hates getting baking mixes for gifts.
Which - ok, maybe that’s true. But she didn’t need to be an a-hole about it.
The teachers who responded to the survey almost all mentioned their favorite gift as those that were personalized and handmade by the students - not all slick, beautiful pieces of artwork, but the ones that were clearly assembled by the hands of a child.
They also mentioned gifts that took into consideration the hobbies or personality of the teacher - showing that they really know the teacher.
For example, one teacher friend of mine is an outdoorsman and an avid hiker. His favorite gift ever was a walking stick.
Another friend said that her class mom made a book filled with pictures of the students and notes from the kids to the teacher, saying how much they loved her and all the ways she was a great teacher.
Here are some other gifts your kids’ teachers would love to receive:
• A donation made to a cause important to the teacher
• Visa gift card, or really any gift card
• Monogrammed beach towel or beach bag
• Time covering the teacher’s lunch break during Teacher Appreciation week
• House cleaning
• Handwritten note from the student
Here’s what teachers do not want:
• Picture frames
• Things that have apples or say teacher
• Coffee mugs and cups
• Stationery/note pads
• Packs of pens
And I suppose it goes without saying that they also don’t want leftover holiday candy or cards addressed to someone else.
And they don’t want lingerie, for the love of vodka.
Something happened recently that has me freaked out a bit over what could have happened. I want to share it with you, not to be exploitative, but to bring awareness.
And because writing about things is how I “deal.”
Not that this is about me.
My 8-year-old son and I went to my favorite place in the whole wide world (Target, of course) to buy materials we needed for a school project. My child had to, of course, use the bathroom, because using bathrooms in every store we visit is his most passionate hobby, so I waited by the registers for him to come out.
He came out of the bathroom and told me that something weird had happened.
In a hurry (because I’m always in a hurry, primarily because of my terrible time management skills), I pressed him to quickly tell me what weird thing happened.
A few things you should know: first, - and because I watch Dateline – I have a fear of my kids using public bathrooms. But this was Target, and everyone knows nothing bad happens at Target.
Besides, I’m there every day, so I don’t consider their bathrooms to be “public.” They're more like a bank of stalls in my second home.
Secondly, my child – despite being raised by wolves (me and my husband) – has an extremely narrow view of what’s considered “acceptable behavior.” He has a problem with me wearing one of my favorite shirts, which happens to have that trendy “burn-out” look, meaning there are areas (my arms, for Pete’s sake) that you can see through the fabric.
He rubbed my arm a bit once when I wore that shirt, and said, “I like your shirt,” then patted it lightly and said disapprovingly, “but I can see your skin.”
If I say a curse word, he looks at me judgingly and says, “Um, you know I’m right here, right?”
So I didn’t expect this “weird” incident to have been much of anything.
But here’s what happened: a man in the bathroom had exposed himself to my boy.
I'll share more details later, when I'm able to. There's an investigation happening at the moment, and I can't risk hindering that in any way.
I’m so proud of my son for coming right out and telling me what happened. And I’m thankful the man did nothing more than show his junkity-junk, because it could have been so much worse. My child, rightfully so, thought it was weird, but it didn’t freak him out, thank goodness.
But I was a disaster.
After almost blowing him off, but thankfully my mommy intuition told me to ask more questions, I got all the details and then said out loud, “Oh hell no.” I grabbed the store manager, who then pulled over store security, who then called the police to come down and take a statement from me.
When the police arrived, they kept their car parked right in front of the store, with their lights going.
They came in and questioned me in the lobby for about an hour.
I always manage to make things about me, so as I told the officers everything my son had told me, I couldn’t help but keep looking around at the customers coming in and out of the store, making sure to smile at them as they looked over at us, so they’d know I wasn’t the one in trouble. I even shouted toward a few of them, “I’m not shoplifting!” and “This isn’t about me!”
The store manager came over to ask if we were alright, and if we needed anything. She could tell I was uncomfortable on display in the front of the store being questioned by the police. She asked if we would be more comfortable in the employee room, set right next to the store entrance. “Yes!” I said, relieved.
So we went in that little room, except she propped the door open, so now it appeared that I was being detained. If it didn't look like I’d been shoplifting before, it certainly did, now.
The officers handed me a few papers to fill out with my written statement of all the details my son had shared.
As I wrote, I noticed my hands.
Let me back up a bit. I’m a redhead. I have freckly, redheaded-person skin. It was cute in my 20’s. It’s awful in my 40’s. I visited the dermatologist last week and had a bunch of pre-cancerous areas frozen off. By a bunch, I mean three were taken off my face, and 14 others were taken off the tops of my hands.
My dermatologist said these will blister (they did) then the little sores left behind will heal and they’ll disappear completely. I don’t know how long this will take, but my hands are still covered in these little ant bite-sized marks.
I look like a meth-head (do meth-heads have sores on their hands? How about heroin addicts? I’m not sure if either demographic has this issue. I don’t know anything about this type of thing at all. Because I’m not a druggy.)
I noticed the police officer glance down at my hands as I filled out the papers, and then – because I was shaken up by the Target Restroom Flasher? Because I had too much caffeine and nothing for lunch? Because I was afraid the cop thought I was a user, and even though this whole situation had nothing whatsoever to do with me, I managed to make it all about me? I’m not sure why – I said (out loud – not just in my head):
“I’m not a junky. I went to the dermatologist last week. These aren’t track marks. They’re pre-cancers that I had removed. My older son told me I need to keep them covered up with Band-Aids – that they look really bad. But I wanted to let them breathe today, because I think they’ll go away faster if they breathe. And we were just popping into Target just for a second to buy stuff to make an Indian headdress because he” (pointing at my son) “has a presentation tomorrow night, and he’s going to be an Indian Chief. Then this happened, and now you’re here, and I just feel like you’re thinking I’m a junky. But I’m not.”
(Update: my son just told me that the policeman made a face, and silently mouthed, "Okaaaayyy," when I turned back to the paperwork. Sweet Jesus, why am I such a freak in stressful situations?)
Here’s the thing: I do not want to minimize what happened, because the guy who did this is a sexual predator, and my child was within the same four walls as him. The “what could have happened” makes me sick to my stomach, and kept me from sleeping well the night it happened.
Our plan going forward – and my suggestion for your little ones
If your littles refuse to let you go into the restroom with them, have them use the family restroom – the one where there’s just the one toilet, and they can go in alone, or with you, and lock the door.
I encourage you to report anything along these lines if it happens to your child. Push for action. Push for an investigation. Advocate for your child. Listen to them. Believe their words. Trust your intuition.
Also, talk to your kids and tell them what to do if a stranger approaches them. My thought is: no stranger needs to be talking to a young kid in the bathroom. I told my son that if a stranger ever tries talking to him in the future, and if it makes him uncomfortable, he should just ignore them.
He said he’d thought about that at the time, but he didn’t want to be rude. Oh, my sweet boy. This brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about my precious, innocent boy being put in this position.
This is important to tell your kids: if they’re uncomfortable, it’s ok to be rude.
One time, I was driving around my neighborhood to help a neighbor find their lost dog. I saw a kid - probably 11 or 12 years old, if I had to guess - walking on the sidewalk, so I pulled over and rolled down my window to ask if he'd seen this dog. The kid kept walking, acting like he didn't hear me, and didn't see me.
I totally get it, and commend that kid's parents.
I felt bad for putting that child in an uncomfortable situation, and only did so because I thought he was probably old enough that it wouldn't be weird. But it was uncomfortable for him, and I get it. If I were a perverted weirdo, that kid’s (lack of a) reaction would’ve been perfect.
And I want my son to be able to do that, too.
UPDATE: The investigation on this guy went on for nearly a full year, and the case went before a grand jury, who then decided to dismiss the charges instead of moving forward with a trial.
I’m glad about this, because my son would have had to testify and honestly, he didn’t really even realize what the guy did was wrong. He was embarrassed for him, thinking he’d accidentally let my son see his privates.
I didn’t want to take away that innocence.
But I was disappointed, too. Because this guy was getting away with what I believe were the first steps on a dark and perverted path that can harm a child’s precious mind forever.
Where I live - in Williamson County, Texas - our law enforcement is strict and just. The problem with this case was that there was no proof as to (1) what the perpetrator’s intentions were, and (2) if he was sexually gratified or in the process of gratifying himself.
Without the proof of either, the likelihood of him being found guilty was next to none, so the county opted not to pursue.
The good news is, that even though this man does not have a record, his information and the information on this complaint was filed into a national database so that if there is ever a complaint of this nature filed against him in the future - even in another state - it will show that there’s this other questionable incident.
With that, I felt satisfied, as far as my son’s case is concerned.
Here again are steps to keep your child safe in public bathrooms
• Have them use the family bathroom, where they can go in alone and lock the door behind them.
• Stand immediately outside the bathroom and don’t hesitate to yell inside to them something like, “You doing alright in there, bud?” To let anyone else inside know that you are right there and you are listening.
• Talk to your child about what to do or say if a stranger approaches them. Let them know that ignoring another person, and simply walking away if they feel uncomfortable is not rude.
• If your child tells you something unusual has happened to them, listen to their words and believe them. They need to feel safe telling you these awkward things. Then report it. And push for an investigation.
When my group of girlfriends get together for any kind of trip or special event, we have to have matching t-shirts because our seventh-grade selves are desperate for a do-over, now that we have the confidence and sense of belonging that comes way after junior high, AND we have the matching shirts to prove it.
Our husbands are not on board with this matching shirt business, but we force them into it.
Here are some of the vacation shirts we’ve done in the past:
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We’ve always designed these ourselves using Canva and PicMonkey using the process I’ve described below, and then we’ve sent the designs to an online store and ordered the shirts from there.
But I gifted myself with a shiny new Cameo Silhouette last year so that I could make fun crafty things, and making t-shirts has become one of my most favorite projects.
Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own custom t-shirts1. Wash Your T-Shirts
Don’t skip this step! Your vinyl won’t stick if you don’t wash the shirts first. And don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets, because this will also keep the vinyl from adhering.
Let me start by saying that this is by no means a fool-proof or perfect plan.
In fact, it’s been literally less than 24 hours since there were tears shed over homework at this very table where I currently type these words.
My timing for writing this “how-to” type post is, as usual, (im)perfectly timed with a life occurrence that makes me think the universe is keeping me from getting all cocky by thinking I have all the answers.
This is just a guideline that works as a general rule.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
It requires that everyone do their own part.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase using my links. I only share brands and products I’ve used myself and personally recommend!
1.Have Some Transition Time
Our best success with homework time started when we implemented a 30-minute transition-from-school time. This gives him time to have a snack, chat with me about his day, and sort-of decompress, without giving him too much time to get in full-on relaxation mode.
Set a 30-minute timer and let him do whatever he wants with that time: play outside, watch some TV, even get on his device, if you allow this during the school week.
Once that timer goes off, it’s time to get down to business.
2. Your Student Needs A Paper Planner
Make sure your child has and uses a paper planner (here’s the one we use). This is such an important tool for learning how to manage all the plates they’re juggling.
And they are juggling a lot of plates.
I know there’s a lot of hubbub about how kids are on their devices as soon as they’re home from school, but in a lot of cases, these kids have a lot of other stuff on their plates, in terms of school-related extracurricular activities, and those outside of school, too.
3. Teach your child how to use their planner.
This might seem like it’s self-explanatory, but it isn’t in the least.
Even adults don’t always use their planner or calendar correctly.
Some people write what they did in class that day. Sort-of like a diary. But that’s not helpful unless your kid’s going to write a memoir of her life as a fifth grader.*
Teach her instead to write things that are coming down the pipeline: an upcoming test or project on the date it’s due - a date that is in the future.
Then, depending on how complex the project is or how much studying she’ll need to do for the test, have her write on a couple other dates between now and the test or project due date, indicating that she needs to study or work on his project.
This practice alone will help everyone in the house avoid tears that come from a project that’s been put off until the night before.
4. Check Their Planner Daily
This is especially important at first, when your kiddo is just getting used to using his planner. Check it every day and make sure it has stuff written in it.
Listen, I know that you’re busy and that homework time is the same exact time dinner prep is happening, and the last thing you need is another “to-do,” but it really does only take just a minute or two to ask to see your kid’s planner, look it over, and tell him what to do next.
If there’s nothing written in his planner, it could be that, say, the math teacher hasn’t announced the next test or project, and the class only did math facts that day, in which case, it doesn’t make sense to write something in the Math section that day.
But if every subject area is blank, you should be asking questions.
There’s surely something coming down the pipeline that she should be working on. Not every single day - of course there will be a day here and there that doesn’t have anything written down, but those should be more of the exception than the rule.
5. Tidy Up
After checking your child’s planner, have him go through his binder or his take-home folder to clear out graded papers or scratch paper or trash collected during the day.
For example, my son is 11 and we typically set a timer in 15 minute increments.
I suggest starting at 10 minutes if your kid is younger, or allowing for more time if he’s older. You’ll get a feel for what’s the right amount of time for your child after a few days.
This has been great for us because if my son is miserable, he knows he’ll only be miserable for 15 minutes.
What if he’s not finished after 15 minutes?
Let him take a break. Have him do some jumping jacks, lie down and stare at the ceiling for 10 minutes or so, then get him back to business for another 15 minutes.
BUT. Listen up. This part’s important:
I’m a stickler for my kid finishing his homework, and I have no patience for him turning in incomplete work.
BUT I’m also not going to have him sit at his desk for four hours, either.
If, after a reasonable amount of time, he’s still not finished with his homework, and I’ve determined that he’s mentally tapped out, we’ll cry Uncle and put everything away for the night.
Sometimes it’s worth him taking a late grade.
You’ll have to find that sweet spot: that fine line of making your child finish his homework because it’s his responsibility and the flip side, which is knowing when enough is enough for the day.7. Big Projects
With the assignment sheet in front of both of you, sit down with your child and show her how to work backward from the project’s due date.
By the way, you’ll probably need to do this exercise with her every time there’s a big project assigned in elementary school and probably even into middle school before she can do it on her own.
Take the number of steps in the assignment and divide it out by the number of weeks she has to work on the project before it’s due.
Or lump some steps together, if, for example, she only has three weeks to do a project that has 12 steps. This means she’ll have to complete four of the steps each week for all three weeks.
In addition to having her jot those “mini-deadlines” into her planner, you can also make a checklist on a piece of paper or poster board and stick it on the fridge so it’s visible and sort-of in everyone’s face for the duration of the project.
This way, there’s a constant reminder of the assignment and the steps that are looming over your child’s head.
8. Do not do your child’s homework
Even if she’s just blubbering on and making a big scene about how she “can’t do it,” making you feel all emotional for her.
Even if you’re watching her do it, and you can’t handle the crooked lines or the sloppy glue or what-have-you, and your body’s been hog-tied to keep you from reaching over to yank the pen out of her hand, and grinding out, “Oh for f#*%’s sake, I’ll do it.”
Don’t do it.
Her homework might be the sloppiest, most incorrect assignment turned in, but don’t do it for her.
Her project might be the most hideous one at the science fair, but don’t do it for her.
In fact, you’re actually doing far more harm than good because - even though you aren’t saying these words - you are telling her that she’s not capable.
This habit is a real confidence-killer, although some people might disagree when they see their child beaming next to a blue ribbon hanging on the project they did for them. But inside, your child’s got it tucked way deep inside his brain that he couldn’t do it because he wasn’t smart enough/crafty enough/neat enough/blahblahblah, and he’ll refer back to that message next time he’s faced with something “hard.”
9. For subjects your kid hates more than being grounded from Fortnite
As much as it gives me literal pain in my heart, I have come to admit that my son hates nothing more in life than writing.
He hates coming up with words to attach to ideas and feelings he has in his head, and he hates the actual act of holding a pen or pencil and moving it on paper.
Is there a worse hell for me?
I can’t tell you how many full-on emotional meltdowns concerning writing-related homework have happened throughout this child’s life.
I’m afraid that what I’m about to impart to you about any similar situations that might arise with your own child is not going to make you happy.
But it’s just a fact.
And it’s something that you’ll have to share with your sweet baby angel, too.
And it is this:
There are some assignments he is just going to hate more than life itself, and he’ll kick and scream and throw himself in the floor, and you might throw yourself in the floor right alongside him, because it’s just as terrible for you as it is him, but he has to do it.
Practicing these subjects he hates will make him get better at them, even as awful as it is right now.
My child hates writing way less now, as a fifth grader, than he did in his earlier grades, and it’s because he’s had to practice it, even though he’s hated every minute of that practice throughout the years.
Communicate with your child’s teacher and let her know how much your child is struggling with the homework. She might have access to other assignments that teach the same lesson, but that seem more fun or engaging or at least far less murderous for your child.
Or she might suggest your student stay after school to work with her one-on-one or in a tutoring group to get a little more support.
Or it’s possible she can’t offer any help or guidance at all.
And, as much as that might suck at first glance, there is a lesson buried down in there.
The lesson that says, “this is life.”
There will be projects and “assignments” all throughout your child’s life, with some being amazing and others being less appealing and others being just terrible.
But sometimes he won’t have a choice. He’ll have to do it because that’s life.
Hopefully, though, some of these ideas will help you avoid the majority of homework meltdowns.